Featured Event: Curtis Armstrong At The Redford Theater

I was only five years old when I saw Savage Steve Holland’s career killing comic gem Better Off Dead.  Of the many quirky characters which came and went in it, my two personal favorites were Ricky Smith (Dan Schneider) and most of all, Charles De Mar (Curtis Armstrong).  Though years later Charles De Mar ultimately proved to be a reworking of his character Booger from Revenge of the Nerds, the impression Curtis Armstrong left on me as a youth has only grown funnier as I’ve aged.  To this day, the film’s funniest scene for involves the pseudo druggie De Mar snorting jello up his nostrils as a substitute for cocaine while sitting in the high school cafeteria.  Say what you will about the rest of Better Off Dead’s surreal comic attitude and footing in the 1980s, Armstrong’s moments are still gut busting in their unparalleled hilarity.  

After making his presence known in the Moonlighting series, providing voice work in American Dad! and several smaller roles throughout the years including Ray and Southland Tales, the Oakland University based Michigan actor has maintained a prolific and consistent career as a gifted character actor.  This past May, Armstrong made a special trip from his hometown in California to appear at the Redford Theater for a special anniversary screening of the film which put him on the map, Revenge of the Nerds

Playing a total of three times over the weekend from Friday through Saturday, Armstrong attended all three shows for a Q&A and meet-and-greet.  On Saturday, however, attendees who paid extra for access to a special VIP event prior to the movie not only received autographed posters and pictures with the man himself, but people were treated to a catered lunch bar with all kinds of foods to choose from!  Further still, anyone who bought a VIP ticket was entitled two beers to go along with the one-hour Q&A prior to the showing of the film at 8pm.  This was the first time I can recall seeing a food bar and beer being served in the theater which set the tone for the event wonderfully.  It’s not often a meet-and-greet with an actor is this well furnished with food and drinks. 

Needless to say, it was an all-day event that was well worth this frequent Redford Theatergoer’s time!  Friendly, personable and easy to talk to, getting to share words with Armstrong about his role in Better Off Dead as well as asking what he thought of Southland Tales was a most exciting moment in this filmgoer’s life!  While the film itself was only shown in DCP digital, Revenge of the Nerds still holds up pretty well and the audience cheered everytime Armstrong appeared on screen.  

Armstrong of course had many stories to tell, most of which involving how his film career began with Risky Business and how adamantly against the idea of Revenge of the Nerds he and his fellow cast members were at the time before finally coming around to the finished result.  He also talked quite a bit about Better Off Dead, in particular it’s writer-director Savage Steve Holland being a kind of cross between ‘John Hughes and Luis Bunuel’ and what it shame it was that his career in film ended with the one that began it. 

Finally everyone got to take pictures with the man and place early orders for his forthcoming autobiography Revenge of the Nerd: Or…The Singular Adventures of the Man Who Would Be Booger along with a custom autograph to be added to the book when it ships later this year.  There were also more custom T-shirts and posters available for the event with Armstrong on the front, though curiously the poster bearing his signature didn’t include him for some odd reason.  In any event, to call the man gracious and generous would be putting it mildly, as many actors and actresses over the years rarely ever are this open and warmly welcoming of their audiences and fans.  It was a joy to meet him and I’m absolutely looking forward to his autobiography!  

- Andrew Kotwicki